A Satellite in the Exhaust Pipe?

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Patrick J. Rafferty, CIH, MSPH ::::

Case Synopsis: The owner of a hundred-year-old home sued her satellite TV provider for causing foul odors in her home. Her suit was based on the remarks of a contractor she had asked to look into the odor problem. After a very limited investigation, he looked up at her roof and saw her satellite dish, which was mounted to the sewer stack vent. He believed he had found the cause of the odor, and told her that there was "a satellite in the exhaust pipe."

Expert Analysis: An inspection of the home and roof revealed that the satellite dish installation was not the source of the alleged odor. The pipe, which was incorrectly labeled as the "exhaust pipe", was the sewer stack vent, which does not "exhaust" but rather equalizes pressure in the home’s waste system before it discharges to the city sewer system. Because the satellite dish had been moved from the stack vent to another location on the roof at the homeowner’s request, the alleged condition could not be physically observed. A close inspection of an identical satellite dish and a similar stack vent indicated that in most configurations of the dish and the vent pipe there was no blockage of air flow, and in the worst case less than 3 percent of the opening of the pipe was blocked, a condition that could not adversely affect the operation of the home sewage system. The home inspection revealed several other sources of foul odor in the home. Most noteworthy was the installation in the basement of a toilet mounted on a sewage storage tank and ejector system, which was improperly vented and showed signs of leakage into the basement. Other findings of potential sources of foul odors in the home included a propane camp stove and propane storage tank that were used and stored indoors; extensive water damage to walls and ceilings in part of the home, and visible mold growth in several areas of the home.

Result: Following receipt of expert reports, the case was settled favorably for the defense.

 

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